Stating the obvious: teaching the “third language” from the bottom up

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    This paper takes the position that there are features of academic language that are intricately tied to an academic practice. We discuss academic language as the key to 1) Belonging in the academic community; 2) Becoming a writer with a scholarly identity; 3) Understanding writing as a meaning-making practice; and 4) Performing scholarly practice and -identity (adapted from Wenger 1998).

    As we see it, student needs are often related to the subskills of not just academic writing, but to an overarching approach to academic practice. We argue that it is increasingly important to teach explicitly this “third language” and focus here on identifying some of the most pertinent aspects of academic skills. We find that our students need to be able to, as we have argued elsewhere “approach writing in a manner that makes explicit the connection between practising and practice” (Freij and Ahlin 2014). By making explicit expectations and subskills or micro-objectives of academic practice, we are more honestly inviting students to participate in the scholarly environment. Our primary interest lies in how the teaching–learning dialogue may be shaped to improve students’ independence, and we see that a crucial component of that climb is to make visible the steps of the ladder. We support, then, a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach in the quest better to equip students more aptly for the tasks at hand.

    Finally, we suggest that we, and our students, may benefit greatly from a curriculum that constructively aligns subject-specific content, and that we integrate subskills related to writing and reasoning into our courses and programs more systematically.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)61-83
    Number of pages22
    JournalHögskolepedagogisk debatt
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Swedish Standard Keywords

    • Humanities and the Arts (6)


    • academic language
    • scholarly identity
    • scholary practice


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